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Amazon fires alleged neo-nazi German security firm

Amazon has been facing increasing criticism over allegations that a security firm it hired for the holiday season mistreated its temporary workers.

Amazon germany temporary workers mistreatedEnlarge
Workers go about their business at the online retailer Amazon's distribution centre in the eastern German city of Leipzig on December 11, 2009. (SEBASTIAN WILLNOW/AFP/Getty Images)

BRUSSELS, Belgium — Online shopping giant Amazon fired a German security firm Monday, after a television documentary accused the company of mistreating foreign workers.

Amazon had been facing mounting criticism over the firm's alleged mistreatment of temporary workers over the holiday season.

A spokeswoman for Amazon in Germany said they had terminated their association with Hensel European Security Services "with immediate effect," according to the Associated Press.

"Amazon has a zero tolerance limit for discrimination and intimidation and expects the same of other companies we work with," spokeswoman Ulrike Stoecker told the AP in an email.

The documentary, which aired last week on German television, showed guards in uniforms with the initials H.E.S.S. The initials stood for the security firm's name, but were also the last name of Hitler's deputy, Rudolf Hess. The film also suggested that the workers — many of them from countries facing economic crises — had beeb paid less than they were promised and suffered inimidation and bullying from the security guards.

The workers, who came from Hungary, Poland, Spain and other European Union countries, "did not expect to be watched over — some say intimidated — by thugs in neo-Nazi-style clothing and jackboots," said The New York Times.

GlobalPost Senior Correspondent in Brussels Paul Ames said the Labor Ministry in Berlin was launching an investigation into an unnamed Amazon subcontractor.

H.E.S.S., meanwhile, denied allegations of links to the radical right. "We dissociate ourselves from any form of political radicalism, both of right-wing radicalism, as well as left-wing radicalism, and religious fanaticism," the security company said in a statement.

Ames said that with unemployment at record highs in Spain, Greece and Portugal, southern Europeans are increasingly looking for work in Germany, which remain's Europe's strongest economy despite a slow down in recent months.

"German labor unions have previously complained about conditions at Amazon and expressed concern about conditions for temporary foreign workers," Ames said.

Amazon is now facing calls for a boycott from some labor groups in Germany, it's second largest market after the United States, generating $8.4 billion last year. The company has also faced criticism in Britain and France where it's been accused of avoiding taxes.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/germany/130218/amazon-fires-neo-nazi-security-firm-foreign-workers